2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Alex P

How are you reading this? If it were not for Mark Dean, I may have had to mail it in. For as long as I can remember, I have always been able to go to a computer and use its power. Computers and the internet have existed for my entire life, and as a result, I am a part of the first generation to have access to a limitless volume of knowledge and computational power. But this all might not have happened if Mark Dean had not been a computer pioneer. 

Born in 1957 in Jefferson City, Tennessee, Mark Dean was a diligent student, whose perfect high school grades naturally allowed him to graduate at the top of his class at the University of Tennessee. After his inspiring work as a student, he joined IBM. At IBM he worked closely with early personal computers, becoming a rising star in the company. While working with a coworker, he developed a new thing called the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA). This allows for keyboards, printers, monitors and other devices to be connected to the computer. After this, he went on to help develop the color monitor and lead the team who developed the first gigahertz processor. These successes led to his appointment as an IBM fellow, the highest honor at IBM. His appointment was the first ever to be given to an African-American. By the time he finished working for IBM, he had acquired over twenty different patents, including three of IBM’s original nine. Additionally, he has been honored with the President's Award as the Black Engineer of the Year and inducted into the national engineer and inventor academies. His groundbreaking work vastly improved the power and accessibility of personal computers, so that everyone can take full advantage of their power.

Dean’s work is an inspiration for all of us, especially for engineers and scientists. His diligence in school reminds me that hard work will pay off and that working hard now only allows you to work even harder in the future. His success in life reminds me to never give up and to always focus on striving for something better. He once said, “There may be obstacles, but there are no limits.” This statement motivates me to always remember how he had to not only overcome obstacles as a computer scientist but as an African-American computer scientist. 

His developments in the field of computing are why I want to focus my career in computer engineering. I want to be able to look back in the future and not only remember Dean for his inspiration but how he developed some of the most basic computing parts. Mostly, though, I want to acknowledge Dean’s ability to be a pioneer in a field that severely lacks African-Americans. Because of this, I also hope to be able to focus my career on introducing computer science to the next generation of African-Americans in an effort to carry on the legacy of Mark Dean.


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